I STARTED my career in a room full of stuffed animals. Having written to newspapers across the country - a lot of blood, sweat, tears and Basildon Bond - I was invited for an interview at a weekly paper.

In the creepy room, which I later discovered was the editor’s office, I sat a written test, surrounded by owls and foxes. Any hope I had of landing a job faded when the formidable news editor tutted her way through my test paper; “You clearly don’t know what a Chamber of Trade is, or the role of a town mayor,” she muttered, shooting me an icy glare.

“I think I’ve blown it,” I told my mum, waiting outside in the car. So I was pleasantly surprised when I later got a phone-call offering me the job.

I spent three years as a reporter on that weekly paper; the pay was appalling, the hours were long and it was an intense sink or swim process, but it was a solid training ground. We covered everything - court, council meetings, inquests, elections, industrial tribunals, road safety committees, civic society meetings, agricultural shows, vox pops, death knocks, am dram reviews, charity dinners - all the bread and butter of local papers. I sat in chintzy living-rooms interviewing Golden Wedding couples - the generation who met and married during the war - and once a month I attended the Cleckheaton Ladies Luncheon Club, taking notes from the guest speaker’s Nordic cruise or collection of hats, which would fill a substantial space on my women’s page.

We were a tight little team of young reporters, and eventually we went our separate ways.

More than 30 years later, I’m standing with that same gang, taking a selfie outside the old newspaper building, which now appears to be a sportswear place. After tracking each other down for a long-overdue reunion, last weekend we were back in the little town where we started our working lives. The past three decades fell away as we eased back into our old banter, over pizza and a few pints. Mid-life health issues, retirement plans and the ups and downs of career paths crept into the chat, but mostly we were that fun little gang from the early 1990s having a laugh once again.

Our careers went in various directions, but each of us still draws on the skills we honed on that long gone weekly paper.

It was one of the country’s last family-owned independent newspapers and even then it felt old-school. It was still clinging on to hot metal typesetting, with a team of compositors assembling each page by hand, and every Thursday the mighty printing press shook the building.

As I write this, I’m wondering what happened to the two Geoffs and their fellow compositors who sat in a glass room, meticulously setting the type; their skills soon to be wiped out by the computer age.

As reporters, our time on that paper was just before the internet took hold. There were no mobiles - a dog-eared phone book and the Yellow Pages were tools of our trade - and no email. A clunky fax machine was as high tech as it got.

It was a lost age of journalism, a bubble about to burst. By the end of the decade, it was becoming a digital industry. It has evolved quickly over recent years, and online journalism now requires a whole set of skills.

Our early days of leafing through the Yellow Pages, scouring church noticeboards for news-in-brief fillers, calling in to see the local police inspector for his round-up of break-ins and other crime snippets, and spending Tuesday evenings covering the district council leisure services committee are lost forever to AI and social media flow.

But last Saturday, standing outside the building that each of us still remembers every nook and cranny of, it felt like those days had never left us. There’s a Home Bargains where the pub across the road used to be, and further along there’s a tapas place, a fancy shopping arcade and a cluster of new build housing. And the old printing press stopped shaking the floorboards a long time ago. But for six reporters who cut their teeth there, it’s a town where time has stood still.